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June 29, 2016 6:22 am

EU-Israel Experts: Brexit Will Weaken Europe’s Ability to Deal With Mideast Issues, Palestinian Conflict

avatar by Lea Speyer

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with  outgoing British Prime Minister David Cameron. Photo: YouTube/Screenshot.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with outgoing British Prime Minister David Cameron. Photo: YouTube/Screenshot.

With Europe sent into crisis mode following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union on Thursday, the ability of the regional bloc to deal with Mideast issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, will be weakened — something that could have both positive and negative consequences for the Jewish state — experts from the Israeli think-tank the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) claimed this week. 

In an analysis piece published by the INSS on Monday, Senior Research Fellow Oded Eran and Neubauer Research Associate Vera Michlin-Shapir wrote:

Europe will be preoccupied with keeping the Union together, blocking the possibility of disintegration, both by internal forces and by Russian attempts to have countries leave EU. Therefore, Israel need not be perturbed by Britain’s secession, though in recent years Britain was a force for moderation with respect to the EU’s policy toward the conflict. On the other hand, Israel’s concern about the increasing support for Muslim fundamentalist forces in Europe and growing anti-Semitism on the continent led it to be more involved in fighting this phenomenon in concert with NATO and the EU. Israel will continue to function in the sub-bodies of the EU, but its influence will be weakened following the British exit. 

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Economically, Eran and Michlin-Shapir recommended that Israel “wait to form a policy that suits the results of the negotiations between Britain and the EU,” due to changes in standards and regulations, customs fees and other issue that will affect Israel-UK bilateral ties.

They explained:

Two groups have formed: countries that are not interested in being EU members, led by Norway and Britain, and countries that cannot belong to the EU because the EU does not want them, including Morocco and Turkey. Consequently, the EU will have to consider a new, different model, and it is incumbent on Israel to follow the debate about this issue, and even contribute to it. Should the EU overcome the string of crises, it is possible that the new model of relations between the EU and its neighbors will serve as a framework for relations between the EU and Israel. This, however, would depend on whether Israel is willing to make the political and economic changes required to tie itself to the EU.

On Thursday, British voters headed to the polls in a historic national referendum to decide whether the UK should split or remain a member state of the EU. The vote, dubbed Brexit, was preceded by months of intense debate and campaigning.

Supporters of the Stronger In campaign — such as Prime Minister David Cameron — argued that the country would be safer and stronger as part of a larger European bloc. Proponents of the Vote Leave campaign — such as former London mayor Boris Johnson — presented a departure from the EU as an opportunity “to take back control and…spend our money on our priorities.”

In the end, fifty-two percent of voters were in favor of leaving and 48 percent against. Thursday’s referendum had the highest turnout of a UK-wide vote since the 1992 general election. More than 30 million people — or 71.8% of registered  voters — cast their ballots.   

Following the results of the referendum, Cameron announced early Friday morning that he would be stepping down as prime minister. In his resignation speech, Cameron said the UK needs a new leader who will be better suited to negotiate the transition. “I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination,” he said.

The prime minister said a new leader — widely expected to be Johnson — will likely be in place by October. Upon initiating formal proceedings to leave the EU, the British government will have a two-year negotiating period to exit the bloc.

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